The Dixie Chicks are back with their first album in 14 years — Gaslighter — and they discuss how the country music industry “turned” on them for Natalie Maines’s 2003 anti-George W. Bush comments, leading to their long album hiatus.
In the new Allure cover story, they recall Maines uttering those controversial comments — "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas” — at a small music venue in London in March 2003, just prior to the invasion of Iraq. When the quotes hit the press days later, there was a swift and nasty anti-Chicks backlash, with their records being burned, their songs banned on country stations, the singers getting death threats, their fellow country singers calling them traitors and President Bush himself getting in his own digs about how the trio “shouldn’t have their feelings hurt” because “some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out.”
Maines, now 45, remains as defiant as she did back then.
"I wanted the audience to know who we were and what we were about," she told the magazine in an interview with bandmates Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer (formerly Emily Robison).
And while, "I do not like when artists get on their soapbox — it's not what people are there for. They're there to listen to your music," Maine said, “The politics of this band is inseparable from the music."
As for whether Maines has regrets over her comment that led to the group being “canceled” long before cancel culture became the norm, that’s a negative.
"I have no regrets,” she said, “but the responsible part of me doesn't want to put people through sh**, referring to Maguire and Strayer.
At that point, Strayer offered a possible Maines regret, saying, "I feel like you might've said something smarter or different.”
To that Maines replied, "Well, I always wish I had said something smarter! But when I think back, it's like that movie Sliding Doors, right? Where would we be today if I hadn't said that? That's interesting. I really don't know if I would take it back."
Maguire and Strayer also spoke about whether they were angry at Maines for the incident, which impacted them all so greatly. They agreed that any hard feelings were momentary.
"For five seconds in the elevator [I was mad]," Strayer said, which surprised Maines.
"Really? You were mad?" Maines asked, appearing “shocked.”
Strayer explained, "It was that next day," Strayer says. "I said something. You don't remember that conversation?"
When Maines said she didn’t remember Strayer being mad, Strayer clarified, "‘Mad’ is not the right word, but I remember being in the elevator, and I was like, 'I'm glad it wasn't me.' It was more like scared-mad."
Maines replied, "It was a bad situation.”
As a result of the controversy, the Dixie Chicks say they no longer feel like they’re part of the country music world, which had embraced their bluegrass vibe and instrumental talent.
"No, absolutely not," Maines replied. "When we started doing this music, I liked the people in our industry. We always waved that country flag when people would say it wasn't cool. And then to see how quickly the entire industry turned on us...”
She added, "I was shocked that people thought that we were different than what we were. I always felt like we were so genuine."
On May 1, the Dixie Chicks — who collaborated with Taylor Swift on her 2019 song "Soon You'll Get Better" (Swift said the treatment of the Chicks kept her from getting political) — will release Gaslighter, following the release of the title track this week. It’s described by the interviewer as “profoundly personal“ and about Maines’s “deeply agonizing pain” over the end of her marriage to actor Adrian Pasdar. (While they are officially divorced now, amid their two-year legal battle prior, Pasdar asked the court to give him access to all of Maines's unreleased music over concerns it might violate a confidentiality clause in their prenuptial agreement.)
The interviewer references “ongoing legal disputes” as a reason they can’t delve deeper into the album subject matter, without explicitly detailing what they are. But Strayer does say, "I'm so proud of this album. No matter what happens with it. It might be a slow burn; it might be a quick burn. I don't know, but it will find its way to our fans. No matter what happens with all the radio or outlets or whatever, it'll make its way."
That leads Maines to add, "I felt the most pride in our last album,” referring to 2006’s Taking the Long Way, which came out post-backlash. “Maybe it was worth the controversy. It was so personal and so honest.”
But “this album even more so," Maines said. "Our manager was like, 'Do you not care about a number one?' When you have achieved all your dreams, everything else is sprinkled on top. I prefer my kids like me than having a number one record. It doesn't mean that I won't be grateful when it happens."
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